Blue Ruin

  • Blue RuinTense, well-acted and visually fascinating, Blue Ruin is a quality drama.
  • Much of the credit goes to writer/director Jeremy Saulnier, who builds tension by making us wait for action, rather than by over-dosing on it.
  • Consider when Dwight (Macon Blair) first sees his parents’ killer, exiting prison and joining his family at a white, stretch limousine. From that moment, Saulnier slowly amplifies nervousness through a drawn-out drive, and then a walk through a bar’s back room.
  • Which brings me to my next point: there is much artistry in Saulnier’s camera angles and movements, as well as in his image frames.
  • In the aforementioned walk, for example, Saulnier mixes close-ups with point of view shots so skillfully that we feel Dwight’s anxiety, not to mention his ineptitude. Then comes Saulnier’s  most genius image: a shot framed by the thin space between a bathroom stall’s door and its outer wall.
  • The director’s visual skill is equally strong throughout Blue Ruin.
  • Macon Blair matches his director. Dwight has withdrawn from the world, and Blair’s big-eyed expressions keep that fact always present. This man has forgotten how to behave around people. He is awkward but still sympathetic.
  • Unfortunately, Dwight is the only well-developed character in Saulnier’s screenplay, a fact that proves to be Blue Ruin’s biggest misstep.
  • We don’t see enough of Sam (Amy Hargreaves) to judge her characterization, but Ben Gaffney (Devin Ratray, excellent) is unexplainable. What about him makes him behave as he does?
  • As they are one-note stereotypes, the Cleland family is even less well-written. Saulnier would have been wise to layer them.
  • Poor characterization of secondary players hurts Blue Ruin in no less than two ways; it makes many of the characters unrelatable. And it also renders the plot overly coincidental.
  • Thematic relevance does much to save the picture, however. Saulnier simultaneously explores multiple lessons, ranging from the dangers of violence to the unjust ways our society forgets many of its citizens.
  • Blue Ruin, then, is well worth viewing, no matter its missteps.
  • Final Grade: B

26 thoughts on “Blue Ruin

  1. I’ve heard a bit of positive buzz about this film already and your review continues the praise. This was released to DVD last month and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

  2. Yeah, this is about my take on it as well. Very well-made and shot, but I think it’s perhaps too minimalist. Nice write-up!

  3. Excellent review. I really, really bought into this one and Macon Blair’s performance in particular. It’s beautifully shot as you mention, a trait that juxtaposes immensely with the prevailing fraught underbelly.


    • I bought it into it, too. When it was over, I didn’t quite love it, but I had to reflect a while before I figured out why. Blair, the story and the direction are so immersive that the experience of watching this movie isn’t hurt all that much by secondary characters’ under-development.

  4. I loved how this was a revenge story that was anything but conventional. The scene where he tries desperately to break the lock off the handgun was pure genius. I don’t think I have ever seen that in a film.

    I agree with most of your thoughts and your rating. Macon Blair definitely seems like someone to keep an eye on.

    • Agreed on the locked gun scene. It was my favorite moment in the film. No better way, probably, to show that this guy doesn’t know what he’s doing.

      And amen on Blair. He was great here.

  5. Great stuff as per usual man, I can’t believe I didn’t receive this here in Tennessee but I see yet another great opportunity for a trip to Redbox for a rental! It does sound minimalist and perhaps detrimentally so, but I’m pretty game for those

  6. Agree it could have fleshed out the characters a tad more. I doubt Blue Ruin will feature in my top 10 at years end. Nonetheless I did quite like it. Was interesting how the main character is not a trained killer, without the physical or technical skills to go on a revenge mission. Blue colors in almost every scene reminded me of Blue is the Warmest Color.

    • Agreed on every count.

      I too think the blue colors here were very interesting, maybe even more so that in Warmest Color, because here they were more subtle, but still complex.

    • Welcome back. How’s the new house? Now if only I could figure out a way to see more movies and make more blog time.

      And this flick is quite good. I think you’ll like it.

      • The house is coming along great. We are prepping for the winter so I had to shut down the pool and put all of our deck and summer furniture away. Plus, all the fall clean up has kept me busy among other things house related. Always something to do. It keeps me occupied, though, so I can’t complain.

        Things are settling down though, so I have more time to bang out some reviews and add some new content for now. Feels good to be writing again on a semi-regular basis. But still not enough hours in the day…

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